The 2020 racing season has seen all sorts of machinations by the various series to make their championships happen – doubleheaders, staying at one track for races on consecutive weekends, running without spectators in many places. The Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series is no different, running its first race in July without fans present. The next effort to make a full season of racing happen in as little time as possible takes place this weekend when, for the first time, the series will run a tripleheader at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo, with races on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The track returns to the schedule after last year’s event was canceled due to storm damage at the facility, and spectators will also be welcome at the event.
The tripleheader means that after this weekend, combined with two rounds at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, Calif., the series will have run half its currently scheduled races for 2020. That makes it a do-or-die weekend, and anyone who has a rough time in Wheatland is going to struggle to win a championship. The fact that it happens at the series’ longest track, with the biggest jump and both the fastest turn and some of the tightest corners on the schedule, only makes the weekend more critical for the racers.
“I think we’re excited – we get three chances to go out there and win or get on the podium,” says Pro 2 racer Doug Mittag, driver of the No. 81 Pinnacle Nutrition Group Hostile Off Road Wheels truck. “But I would say it’s going to be really tough on the team and the truck, because the trucks take a beating out there. Two days is already tough. I think its going to affect the driving styles of everybody. I think the first two days, everybody’s going to be a little bit more hesitant, maybe a little bit more patient, which could be a good time to capitalize; but also you could end up one of those guys that ends up crashing their stuff on day one and not have as good a truck or no truck for the second and third rounds. I think its going to be a big mental thing, just making sure you can still keep up the pace and not be worried about wrecking your truck for the next two rounds because, points-wise, that’s huge.”
Mittag, and everyone else, is chasing defending champion Jerett Brooks, who swept Pro 2 in the opening rounds at Glen Helen. But both Mittag and Brooks are expected to show up in new Midwest-spec trucks instead of the Unlimited machines they raced at Glen Helen, and that could play a part. It could open the door for Ryan Beat, who showed good speed in California, but suffered a bit of bad luck. And if one of those three doesn’t get it done, Brian Deegan, RJ Anderson and Ricky Gutierrez, who showed a big jump in competitiveness at Glen Helen, will be there to capitalize.
Christopher Polvoorde and Cole Mamer split Pro Lite victories at Glen Helen, but Polvoorde clearly had the edge but for a slight error in Round 2. Madix Bailey was the surprise rookie in the field, landing third both days. Add in Brock Heger and Ronnie Anderson, and the Pro Lite field is stacked and ready to entertain in Wheatland.
The two drivers who have won the last four championships in Pro Buggy went winless in San Bernardino, even though Darren Hardesty and Eliott Watson showed plenty of pace. Instead, Matt Brister and Trey Gibbs split wins. With desert racer Dale Ebberts joining the Pro Buggy field, it is deep for its size. The UTV classes, though, showed signs of being dominated in California, with Corry Weller showing no sign of giving up the Turbo crown. Brock Heger and Myles Cheek look like they’ll be trading wins all season as they fight for the Production 1000 UTV title.
Gates open for spectators each day at 10 a.m. Central time, with the junior races beginning at noon and opening ceremonies and the Pro races beginning at 2 p.m. The races will be streamed on Lucas Oil Racing TV.